St Brigid’s Day, 1 February, is the Christian version of Imbolc an ancient traditional festival marking the beginning of spring, halfway between the winter solstice and the Spring equinox.
It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain – and celebrates fertility and the birth of new life after the darkness of winter.
St.Brigid, born in Dundalk in 450 AD, founded the first Irish monastery in County Kildare and is credited with creating the cross, normally made from woven rushes, which bears her name.
In one legend a Celtic chief to whom she gave it asked to be converted to Christianity on his deathbed. Traditionally the cross – and its none-Christian predecessor – was thought to keep evil, fire and hunger from the homes – and the homeowners’ livestock – at which it is displayed.
The crosses are traditionally left by the homes the night before St Brigid’s Day.
Tir Chonail Gaels, with its predominantly Donegal membership, keeps the tradition alive every year and uses it as an opportunity to raise money for nominated charities. This year the proceeds from TCG’s St Brigid Cross Making Family Night went to the Across Charity – Heston and Isleworth Group.
The rushes were supplied from Donegal by John and Tina McGinley of the Across Charity and they were blessed by Fr John Egan.
“It was great to welcome new faces down to the club on this a true family event and fantastic to watch the enthusiasm with which the crosses are made – helping to keep this tradition alive,” said organiser Brendan (Tiny) Vaughan.